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The Golden Age


A while ago I was in the train, and getting near Sligo. The last time
I had been there something was troubling me, and I had longed for a
message from those beings or bodiless moods, or whatever they be, who
inhabit the world of spirits. The message came, for one night I saw
with blinding distinctness a black animal, half weasel, half dog,
moving along the top of a stone wall, and presently the black animal
vanished, and from the other side came a white weasel-like dog, his
pink flesh shining through his white hair and all in a blaze of light;
and I remembered a pleasant belief about two faery dogs who go about
representing day and night, good and evil, and was comforted by the
excellent omen. But now I longed for a message of another kind, and
chance, if chance there is, brought it, for a man got into the carriage
and began to play on a fiddle made apparently of an old blacking-box,
and though I am quite unmusical the sounds filled me with the strangest
emotions. I seemed to hear a voice of lamentation out of the Golden
Age. It told me that we are imperfect, incomplete, and no more like a
beautiful woven web, but like a bundle of cords knotted together and
flung into a comer. It said that the world was once all perfect and
kindly, and that still the kindly and perfect world existed, but buried
like a mass of roses under many spadefuls of earth. The faeries and the
more innocent of the spirits dwelt within it, and lamented over our
fallen world in the lamentation of the wind-tossed reeds, in the song
of the birds, in the moan of the waves, and in the sweet cry of the
fiddle. It said that with us the beautiful are not clever and the
clever are not beautiful, and that the best of our moments are marred
by a little vulgarity, or by a pin-prick out of sad recollection, and
that the fiddle must ever lament about it all. It said that if only
they who live in the Golden Age could die we might be happy, for the
sad voices would be still; but alas! alas! they must sing and we must
weep until the Eternal gates swing open.

We were now getting into the big glass-roofed terminus, and the
fiddler put away his old blacking-box and held out his hat for a
copper, and then opened the door and was gone.

William Butler Yeats